After making four straight trips to the NBA’s biggest stage, the Cleveland Cavaliers are now faced with a new challenge. LeBron James has taken his talents to Long Beach, as most hoops fans know, and the team is looking to rebuild with young talent.
Though the hill before them is steep, the Cavs could still make the Playoffs, but they’ll need a solid season from their resident All-Star, Kevin Love, if that dream is to come to fruition.
Can Love carry the Cavs back to the promised land, so to speak? Perhaps… The former UCLA stand-out is coming off of one of his best seasons as a professional, and there is no doubt he’ll be looking to keep that momentum rolling.
Love, who is celebrating his 30th birthday today, made 59 appearances with the Cavs during their 2017-18 regular season campaign, racking up averages of 17.6 points on 45.8 percent shooting from the field (41.5 percent from beyond the arc), 9.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 28.0 minutes per outing.
For the record: Love’s 41.5 percent mark from downtown last season was the second-highest of his career (41.7 percent from three-point land in 2010-11 with the Minnesota Timberwolves). Opposing sides know they can’t leave him open on the perimeter, lest they pay the price.
The Cavs signed Love to a four-year, $120 million contract extension in July. In essence, the deal makes him the centerpiece of the team’s future. He’s heard his name mentioned in trade rumors for years, but now, with the departures of James and Kyrie Irving, Love is the last remaining vestige of Cleveland’s big three.
Throughout the offseason, Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman has stated that his team will be competitive — even without James.
“You won’t be nearly as good if you lose a player of that magnitude,” Altman told cleveland.com in July, speaking of James. “But we can still be competitive, we can be tough, we can be skilled, we can be talented and we can still use that culture that’s sort of been embedded these last four years.”
Without question, Love is deserving of a contract extension, but there are a few things to keep in mind. He has suffered numerous concussions, a broken hand, and a torn rotator cuff (shout-out to Kelly Olynyk). If Love can maintain a clean bill of health, though, the Cavs could indeed contend for a spot in the Playoffs.
In August, Love opened up about his battles with mental health issues and panic attacks, paving the way for several other athletes and celebrities to openly reveal their own afflictions.
In many ways, K-Love, as he’s came to be known, has always been a leader, albeit a silent one. He’s that “glue guy” that every team needs — an approachable veteran who brings everyone together.
All things considered, Kevin Love is already a legend in Cleveland.